By Michael Kelley
What’s the last thing you think about before going to sleep? Do you number sheep? Do you count in reverse starting at 100? Do you think about your schedule for the morning? Or do you drift off with your phone in your hands?
Probably you have some kind of routine. And at the risk of disrupting that routine, I wonder if you might take that chance as your eyes are starting to close to remind yourself of something other than the number of sheep in the pen and your 8 am meeting agenda. Here are three truths to speak to your soul as you fall asleep tonight:
1. God never does.
In a way, every single night we are reminded of our own weakness because we actually have to go to sleep. It’s the way we were made. God hard-wired our physical bodies to not only desire, but to need, rest. That in and of itself is a lasting testimony of our own frailty. But when you consider just how vulnerable we are when we are asleep, you get a double sense of our own weakness.
Now that might send you spiraling into a paralysis of anxiety. Or, you can take the opportunity to remind yourself that even though you are drifting off to sleep, God never does. He is awake. Wide awake. Just as He has been and will be for all eternity. What better comfort can we offer to ourselves in the midst of our own weakness than reminding ourselves that though we are weak, He is strong. Though we are dependent, He is self-sustaining. Though we might slumber, God is ever alert:
I lift my eyes toward the mountains.
Where will my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
the Maker of heaven and earth.
He will not allow your foot to slip;
your Protector will not slumber.
Indeed, the Protector of Israel
does not slumber or sleep (Ps. 121:1-4).
2. True rest comes through the gospel.
Sleep is not the same thing as rest. Taking a nap doesn’t mean that you are resting; it usually just means that you are tired. True enough, exhaustion can remind us of our need to rest, but not always. Most of us don’t actually wake up rested when we sleep; instead, we wake up thinking about all the things we should have done instead of sleep, or else we wake up thinking about the next time we will be able to sleep again. Sleep, for us then, is not a matter of rest but simply a break from work. Our bodies shut down for a while but not our hearts and certainly not our souls.
There is a greater rest than sleep that we crave – it’s a deep, soul rest which then allows us to do things like sleep soundly though our priorities and obligations and responsibilities are many. And that kind of soul rest comes not through sleep, but only through resting in the finished work of Christ. That kind of soul rest comes only when we trust that because of Jesus, we have nothing left to prove. How wonderful to remind ourselves as we are going to sleep that true rest has already been purchased for us at the cross:
“Therefore, a Sabbath rest remains for God’s people. For the person who has entered His rest has rested from his own works, just as God did from His. Let us then make every effort to enter that rest, so that no one will fall into the same pattern of disobedience” (Heb. 4:9-11).
3. His mercies will be brand new in the morning.
Most everyone reading this post is not only going to go to sleep tonight, but will wake up again tomorrow morning. So the cycle goes. And when we wake up, we will wake up with the same meetings, the same concerns, the same obligations, and the same pull toward sin that we had the night before.
But thank God, the mercies of God are new again in the morning. And those mercies never run out. So while we are tempted to lie awake in anxiety, or doubt, or self-condemnation, or whatever, how beautiful is the news that comes to us on the wings of the Holy Spirit that when we wake up God’s mercies will be new. Again and again:
Remember my affliction and my homelessness,
the wormwood and the poison.
I continually remember them
and have become depressed.
Yet I call this to mind,
and therefore I have hope:
Because of the Lord’s faithful love
we do not perish,
for his mercies never end.
They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness!
I say, “The Lord is my portion,
therefore I will put my hope in him” (Lam. 3:19-24).
Sleep well tonight, friends. But don’t sleep because you believe all your troubles will disappear overnight, because they won’t. Sleep well tonight because God never does, and He has made provision for you in the gospel, and when you wake up in the morning, you will find a fresh set of mercies to meet you then.
Michael Kelley is the Director of Groups Ministry at LifeWay and author of Boring: Finding an Extraordinary God in an Ordinary Life